The 2011 National Recording Registry selections were announced this morning, and as always the titles are great fodder for an eclectic, historically important, culturally influential mix-tape. Among the titles is one of my very favorite albums, Love’s Forever Changes, a relic of 1967 whose lush string arrangements, rich melodies, and alternately pastoral and visionary lyrics make it unlike anything you normally think of as psychedelic — and unlike anything Love mastermind Arthur Lee ever did again. Other musicians named include Dolly Parton, who was honored with a Living Legend Award by the Library of Congress in 2004, and is the subject of a Performing Arts Encyclopedia presentation.
But the announcement is bittersweet because of an iconic musician we just lost. One of the Recording Registry selections is Donna Summer’s 1977 hit “I feel love.” Produced by Giorgio Moroder, the song emerged from the height of the disco era. Its pulsing, mechanistic keyboards represented a move from disco’s R&B roots to the more electric sound of Euro disco. The song became an anthem for the gay community and earned admiration from such unlikely sources as Emmylou Harris and Brian Eno.
Summer passed away just last week, as well as legendary bass guitarist Donald “Duck” Dunn, who helped lays the rhythmic foundation for another of this year’s registry selections, Booker T. and the MG’s instrumental “Green onions.” This month has been a hard one for lovers of dance music. The music world also mourns the death of the Bee Gees’ Robin Gibb and Washingtonian Chuck Brown, a pioneer of Washington DC’s go-go music scene who performed at the Library of Congress in 2002 as part of the American Folklife Center’s Homegrown Concert series.
The Music Division houses materials deposited for copyright by this year’s Recording Registry honorees, including the sheet music for “I feel love” and songbooks for Donna Summer’s albums Once Upon a Time and The Wanderer . One hopes that future announcements in the National Recording Registry include titles by Chuck Brown and the Bee Gees. After all, the latter’s anthemic “Stayin’ alive” has a beat that is used to demonstrate the proper technique for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Find out how to nominate recordings to the registry here.
- Aleccia, JoNel. Keeping the beat for CPR? Hum Stayin’ Alive.‘ October 16, 2008. MSNBC.
- Echols, Alice. Hot Stuff : Disco and the Remaking of American Culture. New York : W. W. Norton, 2010.